The number of deaths from tuberculosis (TB) increased last year for the first time in a decade, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday, putting the number at 1.5 million. The WHO blamed the rise on disruptions to health care during the coronavirus pandemic. The WHO’s annual report on TB, a preventable and curable disease, said the pandemic and related curbs had “reversed years of global progress” and warned that TB deaths could be “much higher” again this year and next. In 2020, the Geneva-based WHO said, “more people died from TB, with far fewer people being diagnosed and treated or provided with TB preventive treatment compared with 2019,” when around 1.4 million deaths from the bacterial respiratory disease were recorded.
Singapore scientists float ‘airborne surveillance’ kit for coronavirus – dpa international
Singapore-based scientists have come up with a device that detects coronavirus in the air of indoor spaces, raising the prospect of “airborne surveillance” of the virus to supplement testing of individuals. The air-sampling method means “early warning of infection risks” could be possible in hospital wards and nursing homes, and could boost virus-monitoring capabilities in public places where people gather indoors, such as restaurants and cinemas.
Tuberculosis neglected as health systems focus on coronavirus pandemic – dpa international
The “profound” impact of the coronavirus pandemic and related cuts to health care left more than 4.3 million more people suffering from tuberculosis (TB) without treatment in 2020, according to the Stop TB Partnership. Neglecting TB cases means “all but certain death for probably half that number,” the Partnership, a United Nations-linked body, said on Tuesday. Lucica Ditiu, executive director of the partnership, warned that the roughly 50 per cent of survivors “will not only suffer the consequences of the disease but will also spread TB to many more, perpetuating the cycle of transmission.” The prioritization of coronavirus has in turn meant 1.2 million fewer TB diagnoses so far this year compared to 2019.
Mayo Clinic research suggests Trump’s antibody ‘cure’ curbs Covid-19 – dpa international
DUBLIN — A blend of antibody drugs has proven effective among vulnerable patients showing symptoms of Covid-19, according to the Mayo Clinic. Published by The Lancet, a British medical journal, the findings show a combination of casirivimab and imdevimab drugs help ensure “high-risk patients” do not need hospitalisation if hit with “mild to moderate Covid-19.” The clinic gave the drugs, described as “monoclonal antibody treatments under Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization,” to almost 700 patients out of 1,400 enrolled in the study. 1.6 per cent of recipients were in hospital 28 days later along with 4.8 per cent of non-recipients, the medics reported.”Once again, this real-world study suggests that when patients who are at high risk due to a range of co-morbidities contract a mild or moderate case of Covid-19, this combination of monoclonal injections gives them a chance of a non-hospitalized recovery,” said Raymund Razonable, an infectious diseases specialist with the clinic.
Birth rates in wealthy nations down since start of pandemic – dpa international
DUBLIN — Birth rates have fallen by almost 10 per cent in some wealthy countries since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to research published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US. Using monthly live birth numbers from 2016 to March this year, the researchers reported “preliminary evidence” showing the pandemic has “decreased fertility” in all but 4 of 22 “high income countries” studied. The authors, from the University of Oxford, Cornell University and Universita Commerciale Luigi Bocconi in Milan, factored in seasonality and long term trends, but nonetheless estimated a 9.4 per cent fall in Italy and more than 8 per cent in Hungary and Spain. “Belgium, Austria, and Singapore also showed a significant decline in crude birth rates,” they said.
Over 100 million Americans caught coronavirus last year, according to Columbia University – dpa international
DUBLIN — Almost one-third of Americans could have been infected by the coronavirus in 2020, according to Columbia University estimates. Published in the journal Nature, the research by the Ivy League university’s Mailman School of Public Health suggests 103 million people, or 31 per cent of the population, caught the virus last year, far more than the official year-end tally of just over 20 million, of which 351,998 had died by December 31. “The vast majority of infectious were not accounted for by the number of confirmed cases,” said Jeffrey Shaman, professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia. Official numbers were accounting for only 10 per cent total estimated infections at the outset of the pandemic in March, when testing was not widely accessible, but rose to 25 per cent by December, according to the researchers.
Almost 270,000 infants may have died in 2020 due to virus curbs, according to World Bank estimates – dpa international
DUBLIN — Economic restrictions aimed at slowing the coronavirus pandemic could have caused an extra 267,000 infant deaths in low and middle income countries last year, according to World Bank estimates published on Monday in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). While the virus has so far had a “small direct impact on infant mortality,” it likely caused an indirect rise through “effects on the economy and health system performance,” according to the Bank’s development research team. The estimated increase across 128 countries would account for a near-7-per-cent jump in infant mortality, they said.
Scientists estimate one-fifth of Americans caught coronavirus by March – dpa international
DUBLIN — Almost 20 per cent of Americans had likely caught the coronavirus by March this year, more than double the roughly 29 million officially reported by that time, according to research published on Monday by the National Academy of Sciences. A “statistical framework” put together by University of Washington scientists suggests around 65 million Americans caught the virus by March 7. The team said they aimed to “provide a clear picture of Covid-19’s prevalence” as “access to tests, and a willingness to be tested, vary by location.” Official data for Sunday show around 34.3 million cases in the US, where 608,403 people have died after catching the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An undercount of infections could mean the virus is less deadly than official numbers suggest, as the real infection-fatality rate widens substantially beyond the official case-fatality rate, or ratio between confirmed deaths and confirmed cases.
For big populations, rapid coronavirus tests work better than PCR – dpa international
DUBLIN — Rapid antigen tests for coronavirus likely work better for larger populations than slower but more sensitive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, Indian scientists have found. A “computational analysis” comparing testing regimes and results across India, which was recently hit hard by a virus surge, suggests “the amount of testing matters more than the sensitivity of the tests.” The findings hint that lower- and middle-income countries “might be able to achieve optimal outcomes by concentrating on ramping up testing using less sensitive tests which provide immediate results.”
Coronavirus antibodies last at least 9 months after infection – dpa international
DUBLIN — Coronavirus antibodies last “at least” nine months after infection, according to Imperial College London and the University of Padua. Antibody levels “remain high” whether or not the infected person developed symptoms of Covid-19, the disease sometimes caused by the virus, the researchers found, after testing patients in northern Italy, one of the hardest hit regions at the outset of the pandemic. “The great majority of SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) infections, irrespective of symptom onset, develop antibodies,” according to the research, which was published on Monday in the journal Nature Communications.